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Rangers Trade or Keep: Shawn Kelley

Photo: Michael Lark/Dallas Sports Fanatic

Rangers Trade or Keep: Shawn Kelley

The Rangers came out of the All-Star break with the team’s status as a “buyer” or “seller” at the upcoming July 31st trade deadline unclear.  They were still just a couple games out of the American League’s second Wild Card spot and had a big time opportunity to sway Jon Daniels and the rest of the front office towards adding reinforcements if they came out of the second half gates hot.  Unfortunately, Texas is in the midst of a six-game losing-streak as of Sunday morning and things aren’t going to get any easier as they find themselves in Houston (0-6 there this season) and soon in Seattle and Oakland later this week.

If there were ever a time where it seems likely Jon Daniels and the Texas front office will lean towards selling, it is right now with the club playing some of the worst baseball it has played this season.  Now 6.5 games out of both Wild Card spots, the Rangers shop should be open for contending teams around baseball to browse as they pass through the neighborhood.

We’ve already chronicled the cases for keeping/dealing veterans like Mike Minor and Hunter Pence, now up next in this series is reliever Shawn Kelley.

He arrived here this winter after splitting time between the Washington Nationals and the Oakland Athletics.  Kelley’s ending in Washington was not pretty and was a national story around baseball.

The Nationals would DFA Kelley the day after these events and both GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Martinez would call Kelley’s actions “disrespectful.”  Washington would trade him to Oakland soon after he cleared waivers.

All indications are that Kelley has been a good teammate and presence in the locker room in 2019.  He came to Texas on a very cost-efficient deal at two years for just $5 million.

He entered 2019 expected to be a strong set-up man with Jose Leclerc reigning over the closer role he had earned in 2018, but when Leclerc struggled big time in mid-to-late April, Chris Woodward removed him from the 9th inning spot and replaced him with the veteran reliever in Kelley.  In the closer role, Kelley hasn’t been perfect (four blown saves in fifteen opportunities) but he has played well overall in 2019 with an ERA of 3.00 in 33 innings.

With the Rangers playing poorly overall in July plus lots of scheduled days off and the All-Star break, Shawn Kelley has pitched just three times this month with his last appearance coming on July 12th.  In the midst of a six-game losing streak where most games haven’t even been close, there has been little need to get your closer into the game.

What exactly could Texas get in a trade for a relief pitcher in his mid-30s? It’s tough to say there would be a grand return, but there definitely shouldn’t be a shortage of interest for a reliever among playoff teams.  In recent history, Texas has traded a veteran relief pitcher for prospects several times with mixed results.

  • 2014: Trade Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers for Corey Knebel (later shipped to Milwaukee for Yovani Gallardo and became an All-Star in 2017) and Jake Thompson (eventually one of the prospects dealt in the Cole Hamels trade in 2015; currently out of baseball after being cut by a Korean League team last month)
  • 2017: Trade Jeremy Jeffress to the Milwaukee Brewers for Tayler Scott (currently in the Baltimore Orioles organization)
  • 2018: Trade Jake Diekman to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Wei-Chieh Huang (currently in minors with TEX, but a 3.18 ERA in four appearances with the Rangers this season) and Joshua Javier (A Ball)
  • 2018: Trade Keone Kela to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Taylor Hearn (one of Texas’ current top prospects, on IL) and Sherten Apostel (A Ball)

So there are obviously mixed results here, but with the right scouting, quality players can be found.  One aspect that will add value to Kelley if Texas does deal him is that he has a very friendly team option for 2020 at just $2.5 million.  While the bullpen can be a year-to-year deal for front offices, it is always nice to have an effective arm at a very affordable price.

On the flip side, maybe it will benefit Texas to keep Kelley at that low price.  In the end, they’d likely try to sign someone else this winter for a comparable price and it might be a more unknown quality than what Kelley has given them this season.  If Leclerc doesn’t just seize back the closer’s role with his performance (so far he hasn’t), having Shawn Kelley fill that role until Jose Leclerc finds his groove again is not a terrible option.

Whichever way Texas decides to handle Kelley, he is one of several key contributors for the Rangers this season that could be dealt within the next ten days.  It will be an interesting Trade Deadline for the Rangers.  Stay tuned to Dallas Sports Fanatic as we continue to break down the different options for Texas this month.


Editor-in-Chief for Dallas Fanatic| Born and raised in Dallas, I received my Bachelor's Degree from the University of North Texas in 2014 after majoring in Radio/TV/Film. I'm a lover of all sports and support every DFW team. For random sports and other thoughts, find me on Twitter: @DylanDuell

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